Hopefully, my last post got you thinking about the tents you’ve known and loved – or hated – over the years. It certainly did that to me. At least, the ones I can remember. So here goes…
Try reading the following to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas:
- A Marechal two-person 17lb heavyweight – my first tent;
- Numerous dome tents from the cheaper outlets, some so damaged they were left at the festivals where they stood;
- A Wynnster four-berth family tent, made memorable by my youngest throwing up in it, missing her mother’s face by millimetres;
- Four Vango tents of various sizes and styles including the iconic Banshee and Blade – all brilliant for those on a small budget;
- Three Hillebergs – Nallo, Akto and Soulo (pictured above) – all superior design and quality and crazy expensive unless you’re in a position not to care about budget;
- Numerous homemade tarps, most never used;
- Several shop bought tarps including Go-Lite and DD;
- A Wild Country Zephyros 1 – a very popular backpacker’s tent but too narrow for me;
- A Luxe Hex Peak – a simple, roomy tepee tent with half-mesh inner;
- A Trekkertent Stealth 1 with both a solid and (my next purchase) full mesh inner for midge-free summer evenings.
(Yes, I know the tune doesn’t quite work.)
From that collection, spread over many years, only four remain: the ancient Hilleberg Nallo 3GT, the Hilleberg Soulo, the Luxe Hex Peak and, my latest, the Trekkertent Stealth 1.
And my reasons for keeping these?
The Hillebergs speak for themselves. They are not cheap, and even though we all know more money does not always equal more tent, in this case it does. There’s a reason why Artic expeditions use Hillebergs, and at a recent Backpackers’ Club meet, six out of nine tents were Aktos.
Hillebergs are beautifully made, well researched with rugged Kerlon fabrics and will protect you in the foulest and coldest conditions. When I first used an Akto, my lack of experience led me to feel it was too small for my needs. Now, it would probably seem like a palace!
The only problem I’ve found, as many others have too, is Hilleberg’s overall packed weight. This probably doesn’t apply to their more recent Enan solo tent, at a packed weight of 1.1 kilos.
When I use the outer of the Soulo in the summer as a single skin, with poles, pegs and footprint, it’s still not a light option, at 1.8 kilos. Adding the inner for winter use brings it to 2.4 kilos. For this reason, I carry the Soulo only when it’s a short walk in and overnight pitch or, when I’m prepared to carry the extra weight, above the snowline.
The trusty Nallo was once the go-to shelter for the cycle tourer and backpacker. We bought the bigger 3GT (that’s a three-person version with a porch) back in 2000. Originally for tandem touring, we now use it mainly for car camping or backpacking, where we can split the weight to about 1.7 kilos each.
Even at a packed weight of 3.4 kilos, it’s a manageable and palatial tunnel shelter, which goes up in a few minutes and has withstood three-day gales and biblical rain storms.
In 2014, I bought the Luxe Hex Peak, a very simple tepee, six-sided design that uses a walking pole for the centre support. I can see why this style is very popular in Scandinavia. Unfortunately, I don’t have the strength to carry the obligatory wood burner!
A simple, but certainly not a new concept, the Hex also goes up in a few minutes, is roomy and, with the exception of gale force winds, will withstand most UK weather.
The fly can be pitched flush to the ground in foul weather, or high off the ground using a walking pole extender, in warmer conditions. The inner, which is half mesh, can be set up on its own for summer use. But the mesh can make this tent a little too draughty in winter and, because of this, I would class it as a thee-season option.
As I’m always looking to cover greater distances, I was keen to reduce the weight of the big three – tent, rucksack and sleeping bag. Rucksack at 800g and down sleeping bag at 900g are acceptable for the moment, so that only leaves the tent. (I’ll be writing about rucksacks and sleep systems in future posts.)
In January, after much research, I bought a Trekkertent Stealth 1. I’d read reviews by other bloggers (Section Hiker and Overthehills) whose comprehensive descriptions persuaded me to plump for it. It’s also good to support one of a few UK tent makers.
My version of the Stealth weighs 780g, which now includes eight titanium nail pegs and a short folding pole for the rear, as I use both my trekking poles to support the front. As for other uses, it can be a winged tarp, pitched low to cover a bivvy bag. The solid inner can be used on its own in the summer, and the mesh inner combined with a poncho tarp for a midge-free night under the stars.
Like many backpackers, trekkers and wild campers, I’ve spent the last few years looking for the perfect shelter. But what I’ve come to realise it that it’s a never-ending quest. Your perfect tent won’t necessarily be mine – and, in the end, one will never be enough. But isn’t that part of the journey?